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When Coffee Speaks
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When Coffee Speaks
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When Coffee Speaks
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2000 PEOPLE OF THE YEAR

It’s December, the time of year when Tea & Coffee Trade Journal’s editorial board chooses its People of the Year. After much thought, we’ve decided that the following three individuals have greatly contributed to the industries that we and you, our readers, care so much about.

Our editorial board considers candidates based on various criteria, including length of time in the industry, contributions to the industry, and integrity as a business person.

We are proud to announce our People of the Year. They are Douglas Carpenter of Ronnoco Importing Co. St Louis, Missouri, USA; Simeon Onchere of the Coffee Board of Kenya, Nariobi, Kenya; and Hans von Gimborn of coffee roasting equipment manufacturer, Probat-Werke in Emmerich, Germany.

These gentlemen exemplify all the best qualities that a coffee industry person has to offer. They collectively and individually have improved the coffee industry. We wholeheartedly congratulate them on their much-deserved awards.

DOUGLAS CARPENTER
Ronnoco Importing Co.

In the coffee community, everyone has an opinion. Some of us are quiet but uncompromising in our zealotry, while others may be more outspoken. Some are independent thinkers while others are merely partisan mouthpieces of party or faction. But few men are respected by all and held up as a model for their fair-mindedness and integrity. We honor one of these special men this year as our man of the year in the sincere hope that his leadership example will prove contagious to all in the coffee and tea industry.

Ronnoco Importing Co.Douglas B. Carpenter entered the coffee business over a quarter-century ago as plant manager for the old McGarvey Coffee Company in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He moved up the ranks to the presidency of McGarvey, leaving after the firm was sold to Superior Coffee Company (now Sara Lee Foodservice) in 1990.

In that year, Carpenter moved to Ronnoco Coffee Company of St. Louis, where a new green coffee purchasing division was established for him, Ronnoco Importing Company. Ronnoco, a charter member of the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA), soon chose Douglas to represent them at the trade association. He took eagerly to the adventure of specialty coffee and was soon serving on SCAA committees. He chaired the SCAA International Relations Committee (IRC), comprising representatives of producer and consumer nations. He was elevated to the SCAA Board of Directors in 1992. In 1995, a crisis loomed in the SCAA leadership, and Doug was asked to step up and take the reins of the growing organization. He rose to the task serving ably as president of the association in 1995-1996.

Douglas was among those foresighted SCAA leaders who envisioned the creation of a scientific body dedicated to the integration of advances in science and technology, by practical application, to bring advancements in all aspects of coffee quality from seed to cup. The Specialty Coffee Institute (SCI), a non-profit foundation, whose goals include activities that increase awareness and understanding of coffee quality, is the living child of this idea. Doug was asked to serve in the capacity of chairperson of SCAA in 1997 and continues as chairman today.

In addition to his devotion to specialty coffee causes through the years, Doug has been active in other coffee promotional activities including committee work at National Coffee Association (NCA), and The Coffee Development Group (CDG). Douglas holds several industry awards including the SCAA Award for Service to the Association.

Much of the energy of the first generation of specialty coffee leaders has been spent in recent times to guaranteeing future generations. To this end Doug has done more than most. Those who have worked for Doug always praise his coffee and his motivational skills. Several of his apprentices have gone on to powerful positions in the coffee world. His love of good coffee has been paid forward in his son Robert, who is a member of the green coffee department at Boyd Coffee Co. in Portland, Oregon. In addition to Robert, Douglas and wife, Pat Carpenter have a daughter, Janet, a California interior designer. Douglas and Patricia Carpenter currently live in New Mexico and Florida.

SIMEON ONCHERE
Coffee Board of Kenya

When members of the coffee industry speak of Kenyan coffees, one man’s name is inevitably uttered, again and again. That man is Simeon Onchere, and it is because of his extreme dedication to the success of his country’s coffee that he has earned such popularity. Onchere is responsible for consistently bringing the superiority of Kenyan coffee to the forefront of the industry, worldwide, helping Kenyan coffee rise to the ranks of highly desired coffees and beyond in terms of perceived quality.

When members of the coffee industry speak of Kenyan coffees, one man’s name is inevitably uttered, again and again. That man is Simeon Onchere, and it is because of his extreme dedication to the success of his country’s coffee that he has earned such popularity. Onchere is responsible for consistently bringing the superiority of Kenyan coffee to the forefront of the industry, worldwide, helping Kenyan coffee rise to the ranks of highly desired coffees and beyond in terms of perceived quality.

In his diligent efforts, Onchere is ever-present at industry functions, conventions, symposiums, and exhibitions, touting Kenya coffee’s wide availability and paramount quality. Meanwhile, he makes certain to bring to light the plight of the Kenyan farmer, urging fairer prices for a better life for his country’s growers.

Onchere is intensely active in the field, shouldering the task of promoting Kenya’s coffees while concurrently protecting them, on both national and international levels. After spending almost 20 years based in London as the Overseas Representative of the Coffee Board of Kenya, Onchere is now back in Nairobi at the headquarters of the Coffee Board of Kenya, serving as deputy general manager. In London, he was the Coffee Attaché at the Kenya High Commission, and has been the London-based delegate of Kenya to the International Coffee Organization since 1983. Onchere has immersed himself in the coffee world, holding membership in many coffee associations. At times, crossing the globe for meetings has been almost a weekly occurrence for him. Currently, he belongs to the International Relations Committee of the Specialty Coffee Association of America, the Producers Committee of the National Coffee Association of the USA, and of the Coffee Association of Canada.

In addition to serving as officer in charge of the promotion of Kenya coffee in existing and potential markets, Onchere is also a coffee ambassador of sorts for several African coffee-producing countries. He serves as chairman of the promotion group of the InterAfrican coffee organization, and as coordinator of the East African group (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania) coffee promotion in the world specialty coffee movement.

Onchere is the kind of diplomat a country could only hope for: where he finds deficiencies, he acts upon them swiftly and intelligently. When he sees opportunities, he seizes them, putting his heart into making the best of them. Throughout his career, Onchere never faltered in his efforts towards his goal: helping ensure quality of life of the Kenyan producer, while furthering the guarantee that as long as the label says “Kenya,” a very special, exceptional coffee will reach the consumer’s cup.

HANS VON GIMBOEN
Probat-Werke

C. Hans von Gimborn was, and is in many ways, an extraordinary entrepreneur. With a combination of determination and naiveté, von Gimborn was able to form from the Emmericher Maschinenfabrik the worldwide successful Probat Group. He had managed the fortunes of the company for a quarter of a century and created under the name Probat a leading manufacturer of coffee roasting plants in the world. While the magazine has never awarded our People of the Year award to an equipment supplier, we felt it would be remiss to not honor a great man responsible for bringing coffee to its full roasted potential.

C. Hans von Gimborn was, and is in many ways, an extraordinary entrepreneur. The fact that he usually rode to work by bike does not fit into the typical image of a manager. But perhaps, it is precisely the combination of determination and nativism, which enabled von Gimborn to form from the Emmericher Maschinenfabrik the worldwide successful Probat Group.

C. Hans von Gimborn was born on July 23, 1923 as the son of Carl von Gimborn (1885 - 1974) in Emmerich. At this time, the Emmericher Maschinenfabrik & Eisengiesserei van Guelpen, Lensing & von Gimborn (which was later renamed “Probat-Werke”) was already 55 years old. Von Gimborn’s grandfather, Theodor von Gimborn (1840 - 1916), had co-founded the company in 1868.

C. Hans von Gimborn spent his youth between the First and Second World War-not an easy time, especially for a child. On the one hand, his upbringing was typical of the time, which presented Germany not as a loser, but as the betrayed of the First World War. On the other hand, high moral values existed, such as fairness in sport and the endurance of deprivation without complaint. Precisely these values permanently characterized the personality of von Gimborn. In 1942 he left grammar school (Aloysius-Kollege), however, there was no time for holidays, because he was immediately called up for military service. The Second World War took him to Soviet Russia and later to the theater of war in the West. Badly wounded, von Gimborn was treated in a British hospital in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1945. The friendliness and helpfulness of the supposed foes left a deep impression on him. Instead of hate, von Gimborn was treated with humanity-something he never forgot. Fully recovered, he returned to Emmerich in October 1945 and found a city in ruins.

However, it is not in the nature of C. Hans von Gimborn to give up in the face of problems. He immediately began together with his father and several helpers to rebuild the first Probat offices and production establishments. He completed an apprenticeship at a ship-builder in Cologne and subsequently acquired further vocational experience at a company on the Lower Rhine, where he also came into contact with the earlier Hollerith system. The next stop was London, where his main interest was in banking. With his sound training, von Gimborn subsequently ventured to go to North America. His goal was to learn the secrets of coffee roasting in this country with the highest coffee consumption in the world.

From 1950, in addition to North America, he also traveled to Mexico and Central American coffee countries before returning to Emmerich in 1951. As assistant to his father, he helped to shape the development of Probat from this time onwards.

At this point in time, Probat had already recovered from the effects of the war, despite the production facilities in Austria and Holland being dispossessed and the parent company in Emmerich being completely bombed. The loss of the foreign factories was a hard blow, particularly from company policy aspects. Both were not only production locations, but also a clear demonstration of the active closeness of Probat to its customers.

Initial projects, such as those of the National Malting Company in Paterson, NJ, and CO-OP in Switzerland played a large role in the rapid recovery of Probat, as they demanded and encouraged the resumption of production.

C. Hans von Gimborn soon took over the sales responsibility for Probat in the English-speaking countries. This also included the opening of the Japanese coffee market at the beginning of the 60’s. However, his “favorite” sales territory remained North America, where he was able to personally win John Sheffman, Inc. and Mr. Gilbert Holmberg 1951 as Probat representatives. Precisely this American market induced a sudden welcome increase in Probat production around 1955. Customers at this time were, e.g. GF/Maxwell House (Montreal), Nabob Foods (Vancouver) and National Tea (Chicago).

Exactly on the 100th anniversary of the company-1968-his father retired as Probat managing director and C. Hans von Gimborn took over as general manager for the management of all Probat activities. He had managed the fortunes of the company for a quarter of a century and created under the name Probat one of the leading manufacturers of coffee roasting plants in the world.

This development was due above all to exports, which Probat practiced at the outset. Starting with sales of two or three spherical roasters to Holland, the main proportion of export countries until World War II were in Europe (Benelux, France, Italy, Spain, Scandinavia) as well as Central and South America. Already before the First World War, correspondence was held in the then three main world languages French, English and German. Until today, 75% of all roasters are exported.

Of course, product experience and development contributed to the fact that Probat today, with its head office in Emmerich, Germany, has offices in Italy, Spain and the US, as well as being represented with more than 60 agencies worldwide. Important for the company’s development was certainly the optimization of the combined use of heat (conduction and convection), the rapid/slow roasting process and the gathering of experience on roasting other products such as malt, grain, chicory, cocoa beans and cocoa nibs. Probat was also the first to market a continuous roaster that is accepted worldwide.

That these developments were not only technically, but also economically successful, is shown by the sales trend of Probat: Under the management of C. Hans von Gimborn, corporate sales increased 36-fold.

In addition, the establishment of the company’s own museum for coffee technology is due to him. The origin of the exhibited collection of historic roasters is unusual. Since all tools and documents had been destroyed after the war, Probat bought back individual roasters in order to measure and rebuild them. Over the course of time, an interesting “collection” came together, which C. Hans von Gimborn exhibited appropriately in the new administration building in the 1970s. The museum for coffee technology has already been extended three times.

His love for roasting technology is clearly shown on the basis of another example. Until today, C. Hans von Gimborn roasts his coffee himself at home on none other than a Probat sample roaster.

If there was anything more important to C. Hans von Gimborn than the development of his company, it was his family. In 1954 he married Roberta Falout-van Schaik, daughter of an Austrian and a Dutch lady, who, due to the chaos of war, grew up in Holland. Between 1955 and 1966, they had five children. As a loved one, she died much too early in 1982.

Some of the children followed in the footsteps of their father-at least as far as training was concerned. Two of them studied in North America; his second youngest daughter, Jacoba, attended Smith College and Boston University and graduated with a Masters degree, the youngest daughter, Ernestine, graduated from Pine Manor College in Boston with a BA. Jacoba still lives in the States, where she today works for Harvard University and is a member of the board of directors of Probat, Inc., Memphis TN. C. Hans von Gimborn re-married in 1989 his second wife Doris, widow of the late Gerard Brenninkmeyer, born in Borken, Westphalia.

C. Hans von Gimborn has been there for his wife and children since 1993. Like his father before him, he passed on the management of the company shortly after a major company anniversary (the 125th).

Today, C. Hans von Gimborn is the chairman of the board of Probat Holding as well as co-proprietor of Messrs Kirsch & Mausser, Engineering Company, which specializes in the development and manufacture of all kinds of machinery. And nobody is surprised that he also rides there on his bike.



Tea & Coffee - December/January 2001
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